Illinois senate rejects house budget plan

An hour before the midnight deadline, it seemed unlikely that state lawmakers would agree on a budget deal. (Photo credit WLS)

By Charles Thomas,

As the likelihood of a state budget deal in Illinois diminishes Tuesday evening, state Senate Democrats approved a nearly $16 billion bill for public schools next year while rejecting an out-of-balance House spending plan that the governor threatened to veto.

This is the second year that Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats in the legislature remain deadlocked over a spending plan. The deadline for a budget deal is midnight Tuesday, when the state legislature ends its regular session. Illinois has been operating without a budget for 11 months.

However, Tuesday afternoon, lawmakers made moves toward temporary spending bills to support K-12 education and other essential services.

The Senate bill would add nearly a billion dollars to schools at a time when the state is running a massive deficit.

At about 10 p.m., Republicans said the bill was unrealistic and it was unclear if the House would take it up before concluding the year’s session Tuesday night.

Shortly after passing the education bill, the Senate overwhelming rejected a $40 billion budget plan that House Democrats passed last week.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said the House bill was $7 billion out of balance and he was going to veto it.

At about 9 p.m., Senate Democrats won’t consider the $40 billion budget bill the House passed last week before they conclude this year’s session and instead will push for a stand-alone bill to fund public schools.

But with just hours left before lawmakers finish this year’s session it is appearing likely lawmakers won’t pass a full budget or a budget for just public schools.

Rauner said he was going to veto the House’s budget bill if it passed the Senate because it’s $7 billion out of balance.

Democratic Sen. Heather Steans said Tuesday her party does not have enough votes to pass the House’s bill in their chamber.

Earlier Tuesday, Republicans supported the temporary, stop-gap appropriations bills, which Rauner proposed Tuesday morning. The proposals would not include his demanded reforms that would fund state government for the time being.

“Certainty is something that is extremely important in the state of Illinois right now. The stop-gap measure brings certainty,” said state Rep. Jim Durkin, a Republican and Minority Leader.

However, Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan said passing the special appropriation bills would not happen by Tuesday night.

“I made that very clear in the meeting. This is not something that’s going to happen today,” Madigan said.

At about 6 p.m., it was unclear whether Madigan was going to call for a vote on the spending bills.

Republicans scoffed at the Madigan’s suggestion: “For them to suggest it can’t be done today is laughable. You’ve seen how they’ve been able to move mountains in matters of minutes,” Durkin said.

It’s an idea that Sen. John Cullerton, a Democrat and Senate president floated last week, who appeared to welcome the idea, noting that it would not involve any new revenues and no Turnaround Agenda which would make it something that could be potentially negotiated.

“Keep the government running, keep the schools open, keep the universities open, social services providers from closing,” Cullerton said.

Republicans do think the deal could happen by Tuesday night.

“We could get this measure passed today by midnight. They are unwilling to do that,” state Sen. Christine Radogno, Republican Minority Leader.

Without a temporary spending plan, public schools and universities, prisons, social services providers and other state programs could run out of money soon, inasmuch as Illinois has been without a budget for 11 months.

“There’s a big problem for this fiscal year in being able to pay our bills,” said Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat.

“What is a stop gap budget? Is the Governor going to pick the winners and losers as to who gets paid and who doesn’t get paid,” said Rep. Mary Flowers, a Chicago Democrat.

“I think what he’s telling us is that they’ve got some severe needs in the agencies,” Madigan said.

Republicans charged that Madigan — in his need for more time to study a temporary plan — is trying to prolong the budget crisis until after the fall election.

“It’s all about politics. It is not about doing the right thing for the state,” Radogno said.

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